For the Period of the War

Digging around in old newspapers, dusty records, and listening to random comments I learn a lot.  I find all types of wonderful treasures that others have forgotten about or simply did not think were important. 
In August of 1918 in Hughes County, Oklahoma a commissioned deputy sheriff enlisted in the army.  The local Sheriff Sam Turner offered the position to the man's wife.  She was duly commissioned as a deputy sheriff and securing the rare place of being the only active woman deputy at the time.  She had accepted the position with a simple: "for the period of the war."
Hughes County was a rough and tumble town and just ten years before a Deputy Sheriff, John Tabor, had been shot and killed in the line of duty.
She is listed only as "Mrs. Beaty Templeton" but she raises many questions.  Who was she? What happened to her? What were her experiences in that role?  A local paper had the teasing headline "Wife Wears Pistol."  I suspect she had some interesting stories. I wonder if anyone ever asked what they were?



In Pursuit of Excellence:  A Brief History of the Zeta-Theta Chapter of the Phi Alpha Theta and The History Club at the University of Oklahoma,  1957-1995
By Marilyn A. Terry Hudson, Zeta-Theta Historian (1994-1995)
The story of the history organizations of the University of Oklahoma, Phi Alpha Theta and the OU History Club, begins in 1957. On March 12 of that year, Dr. Homer Knight, Chair of the History Department from Oklahoma State University (then the Oklahoma A & M), traveled to Norman to assist in the formal organization of a history group on campus. The Zeta-Theta Chapter of the National Honor Society for History, Phi Alpha Theta emerged due, in part, to the behind the scenes efforts of several students who had worked to bring the group to the Norman location.  According to a letter from Jack D. Haley, 13 January 1992, Robert Eugene Smith, Rau Stephens, Thomas Shang and Haley were responsible for the chapter formation. Robert Eugene Smith served as the first president of the chapter according to the history contained in the letter.
The membership rolls for that year list seventeen names. That first organization meeting is nor recorded in any Sooner annual from 1957-1958.  In the 1959 edition, however, there is a photo of the Chapter with accompanying text (page 406).
“Phi Alpha Theta recognizes academic achievement, interest in the field of history…Founded in 1921, Phi Alpha Theta strives to provide recognition for those achieving superior academic records, especially in history, and to encourage an active, scholarly interest in history…Serving as officers of the group this year were Sherman P. Carter, president; Joe C. Ray, Vice-president; Carol Whittels, secretary-treasurer; Dr. Herbert Ellison, sponsor.”
Pictured in that volume were twenty-six people (fifteen men and eleven women). In a time when gender segregation was common and apparent in many campus groups, the presence of these women shows that Phi Alpha Theta and the OU History Club exhibited equality in membership and leadership.
The first mention of the components that came to be traditional parts of the groups appear in the 1960 Sooner annual. The article there notes the annual spring banquet (March 30) with a guest speaker of S.E. Morrison of Harvard University. The Chapter was described as having bi-monthly noon meetings led by facultu (this was no doubt a predecessor to the “Brown Bag Lunches of the mid-nineties). Captured in a photo, in a “meeting with faculty sponsor”, were Marvin Burge, president; Nancy Russell, historian; Barbara Cookey, secretary; Herbert Ellison, Advisor.” The accompanying text defined the groups purpose on campus :…”to encourage high standards of scholarship among students of history, to promote an interest in historical matters, and to foster a spirit of fellowship among its members.”(page 412)
This definition, by 1966, continue to follow the academic tradition of promoting the free exchange of ideas and sponsored “speakers, forums, debates, and seminars.” (page 506).  Oficcers were listed as (Mrs.) Maxine Taylor, president; Fred Roach, vice president; Lloyd Roberts, publicity chairman; Dr. Kenneth I. Daily, faculty sponsor.  The photo with the entry revealed a twenty-nine people, nine of which were women, in a formal portrait. It is possible some of the people photographed may have been faculty.
Subsequent editions of the annual reveal a sporadic pattern in the chapters’ campus visibility. For many years (1958; 1961-1965; 1967-1994) there is no record of them among the organization pages of the yearbook.  Chapter records indicate, however, that new members were taken in during those same years clearly indicating that Phi Alpha Theta was in existence on the Oklahoma campus.
In those formative years, the local Zeta-Theta Chapter began many traditions: the Spring Banquet, the Guest Speaker program, and the noon discussion groups.  The noon discussion group were events where faculty members were invited to share with interested students and faculty their on-going areas of interest, current research, or writing projects.  Originally, the presentations were limited to faculty but over time it was expanded to include qualified graduate students. This reflected the general shift in the Phi Alpha Theta national structure to highlight encouraging students of history.
Another tradition was a popular event and often included a guest speaker of some note. The Banquet was the forum for the awarding of Departmental Scholarships, Chapter recognitions and socializing.  In the early 1990’s the time just prior to the banquet was given over to the initiation ritual of Phi Alpha Theta.  When guest speakers were brought in they included notable names: John Franklin of the University of Chicago, Avery Craven and Alan Trachtenberg of Yale University.
Over the course of a school year students would also have opportunities related to the Regional Conference of Phi Alpha Theta, often in conjunction with the Oklahoma Association of Professional Historians.  These regional meetings included a time for the presentation of papers (undergraduate, graduate and faculty). Over the years several of Phi Alpha Theta members and University of Oklahoma’s students have received letters complimenting the Department of History, the student and the Chapter on the quality of work presented by papers in these venues.
During the mid-nineties, the Chapter instituted a newsletter to better foster communication and fellowship among all history students; sponsored, with the OU History Club, a shirt logo contest preliminary to fundraising on behalf of the first Chapter scholarship. These all served to increase the amount of publicity about the Chapter and the Club on campus.

[As I concluded my office as Historian, I put together a collection of flyers, letters, newsletters, and other artifacts and left them with the OU Archives (in the Western History Collections) in 1996.  There had been no files or records on the organization in the archives to that date. Somewhere I have a photo of the leadership of the chapter for 1995.]

Old and Fascinating

Cigarette boxes were once a have to have item for every home. Now, in films, they warn of incidences of "historical smoking."  Watching an old, old murder mystery from the 1930's I saw one of those boxes in use in a scene.  I ran across a box at a second hand store and think it might be one of those boxes or one called a "trinket box".  It appears to be from a heavy glass that may be a pale blue.  The top has a badly flaking off celluloid or plastic decal of flowers. Where this has chipped away the box looks more blue; where the decal rests it  has a darker mint green tone.  I suspect that the entire box may have had a coating or decal applied to provide the color of the box.  The metal is gold tone. There is absolutely no markings on it at all. It is, indeed, a mystery of history.


A Fallen Veteran

In the early spring of April 1953, a Korean War Veteran, 24 year old Corporal Robert Wayne Smith, left Alexandria, La for a 30 day leave. He had just returned from Korea in March and was no doubt eager to reconnect with family, friends, and normal stateside life. He was ordered to report to Camp Carson in Colorado by May 14 for discharge. 

He visited his family back in Cimarron, Kansas and a girlfriend in the area of Alexandria, Louisiana he had meet before going overseas.

He attended church on Easter Sunday, April 5 with the girlfriend, Cora Lee Johnson. He stayed too long, spent to much money and with just a dollar left decided to hitchhike to Camp Carson. According to Army information, he was last seen by a Alexandria youth named Walter Gatlin, getting in a vehicle with four men outside a tourist court near Alexandria, LA on April 6, 1953.
A 15 year old farm hand was walking across a pasture when he stumbled on a badly decomposed, and decapitated, body weeks later on May 25, 1953.  The body was found in the six inches of shallow creek in a pasture near Perry, Oklahoma. A day later his head was located nearby. His wallet was found hear him.  His body was taken to Fort Sill where formal identification took place through dental records.  He had been shot with a .45 caliber weapon in the chest.
A few weeks later, around June 13, his luggage was found 2 miles west of Wellston, Ok. The bag, camera, shaving kit and miscellaneous personal items were searched.  The bag's contents provided few clues to explain why this soldier had died, who had killed him, or where they were going to be found. It had been found in an area where an old road had been turned into a dead end due to construction of the new Turner Turnpike.
Smith was the son of Pete Smith and Helen Moots, long time residents of the south central counties of Gray and Hays Kansas. 
As the anniversary of the last time, potentially, the man was ever seen alive nears, it is fitting to remember him.  He served his nation in a time of conflict and deserved to live a long and happy life back home.  A soldier who had bypassed death on the battlefield only to be waylaid by a twisted fate far too soon once he was home. 

No Clues Found in Death of GI, Oklahoman, June 14, 1953, pg. 22
Luggage is Found in Mystery Death, Oklahoman, June 13, 1953, pg. 24
Cimarron Man's Body Identified, Salina (KS) Journal, Mary 27, 1953, pg. 11

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